A heart of gold and a stack…

by Sunita on January 9, 2008

It was on the 10th of May, 2001, that we moved to Kolkata. Dinesh had joined a new company and was posted there, and I was heavily pregnant with Rengoni.

I had been to the ‘city of joy’ before, but that was just a short stint…not like that year, when we had come over bag and baggage to start a new life. Everything was new for me…especially the language. Although Assamese and Bengali share the same script, except one letter, they do sound quite different.

We had to live in a guest house for a couple of days before we found a proper house, which meant that we had to go house hunting every morning. At this time, we found great help from the caretaker of the guest house in the form of a lady called Anima. Well, she was also the cook, cleaner, everything rolled into one. Anima… dear Anima… Anima with the booming voice (which was the first thing anyone noticed)…Anima with the no-nonsense attitude…but most important of all, Anima with a heart of gold. It was she who came to my rescue in this unfamiliar place filled with unfamiliar people, speaking an unfamiliar language. It was she, who showed me around when Dinesh went to work. It was she, who also translated into Hindi (in which she was quite proficient) every word that came from the shopkeepers mouth (who refused to speak anything other than Bengali), as well as the names of various items. Later on, when I was quite proficient in Bengali, to that extent that someone once asked Dinesh ( I hope I’ve still got it right), “Bangali bou ta kothai pelen”…which means…”where did you get the Bengali bride”, I couldn’t help but smile, think of and thank Anima.

Even when we moved to a house, she stayed in touch with us throughout our tenure in Kolkata. She never failed to visit when Rengoni and Agastya were born and also later to catch up and see how much they had grown. I really admire her…for the way in which she carried herself…a very strong willed and proud person. She solely carried the responsibilities of her famiy, actually families to be precise, both her husbands and hers, without so much as a grumble. She even spoke of her hardships with a smile…a smile , which I can’t help but feel, hid many a tear. She was a very tough nut to crack…but once you reached that interior, you find the sweetest and kindest person ever.

And, last , but not the least, it was Anima, who made the best aloo parathas of all.{Paratha is a flatbread , usually made with whole wheat flour, pan fried in ghee/ cooking oil, and often stuffed with vegetables, especially boiled potatoes, radish or cauliflower and/or paneer (Indian cheese)} Anima, of course, made them every other day during our stay in the guest house, but we didn’t mind, for they were simply superb. They were what kept us going for a long time when we went house hunting. Sometimes I used to gaze at her in wonder as she weaved her magic…one moment she would be kneading the dough, and the next moment, the parathas were ready to be devoured. Every time I make parathas, that scene flashes back. Even now, many years later, I think they are still the best parathas I ever tasted. I didn’t know how to make them at the time…I do so now…and I hope, if Anima was near, she would be proud of her “boudi”. I wonder where she is now… but wherever she is, I am certain she will find out a way to meet life’s challenges…she is too strong to give in without a fight.

I made this stack of mixed vegetable parathas some time back and they were very much loved…so here I am sharing my version with you. I even spiced up the dough a little for some extra zing.

What’s needed-
For the dough-

5 C of whole wheat flour
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cumin powder(if possible, freshly roasted and ground)
1/2 tsp salt
2 and 1/2 C of water
2 tblsp oil+ extra for cooking and greasing.

For the filling-
6-7 medium sized potatoes,quartered, washed, boiled, peeled and mashed
a handful of spinach leaves, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
salt to taste
50 gms of cheddar cheese, grated

How to-
The dough-

  1. In a bowl, mix together the flour, cumin seeds and powder and salt.
  2. Rub in the oil.
  3. Add the water, a little at a time, and bring everything together into a lump.
  4. Knead the dough for a few minutes till smooth and pliable.
  5. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions.
  6. Shape them each into a ball and slightly flatten between the palms of your hand. Keep aside.

The filling-

In a separate bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the filing and divide into 12 equal portions.

The making of the parathas-

  1. Take a portion of the dough and place it on a greased rolling board.
  2. With a greased rolling pin, roll out into a small thick disc.
  3. Place a portion of the filling in the middle of the disc like a ball.
  4. Gather up the sides of the disc to cover the filling and seal it to form a pouch.
  5. Gently flatten and spread with your fingertips to slightly bigger discs and finally roll them gently, taking care so that the stuffing does not ooze out…about 3-4 millimetres ( well, may not be a perfect disc…at least mine weren’t ;-) )
  6. Grease a tava (griddle) and gently place the rolled out paratha.
  7. Cook for 10-15 seconds and turn over to cook on the other side for the same time(if it sticks to the pan, grease it a bit more…either the tava or the parathas themselves)
  8. Turn it over for a couple of more times till brown spots appear and the paratha is evenly cooked.
  9. Repeat the same for all the others. With practice, it gets easier.
  10. Serve hot with some pickle or raita or just by themselves with a blob of ghee or butter.

Many of you must be making this regularly…I don’t, but when I do, we thoroughly enjoy them…biting into the crisper outer shells and reaching the soft filling within. And I like to relish them by tearing into small pieces…

and dipping them in some yogurt…

…how do you like to have your paratha?

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{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shella January 10, 2008 at 10:37 am

Hey Sunita, thats a lovely read, n I love the way your parathas look. I love mine anyways, be it chilly pickle, or curd – the best would be a dollop of butter (which unfortuantely i cannot indulge in).

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2 pandugundu's kitchen January 10, 2008 at 11:08 am

Dear Sunita!I liked the way you described your wonderful moments . I loved your parathas too.Actually I am going to make them today for our lunch.But I have some prepared dough in my fridge so,cannot spice it up for this time.but liked the idea.will try it next time.Will let you know how they come out.
Madhavi

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3 bird's eye view January 10, 2008 at 11:46 am

Hi,

That was a wonderful read. Anima sounds lovely and the parathas look yummy. I can’t make them at all – end up tearing the atta. But we often add ajwain seeds to the dough, which also gives a wonderful flavour – have you ever tried it?

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4 Ivy January 10, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Hi Sunita, I’ve been reading your blog many times but haven’t commented before. I want to try make parathas as they look delicious but I would also like to tell you that “Anima” in Italian means “soul” and I must say that Anima was or is a kind soul. The other thing is about Tava. In Cyprus we have some dishes called Tava and I was surprised seeing it but coming to think of it Cyprus was occupied by the British for many years (as India was) and I have heard some narrations about Indian soldiers serving in Cyprus during English occupation. Maybe it’s a dish we learnt from India.

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5 sunita January 10, 2008 at 1:13 pm

shella, thanks…I too am a little wary of the dollop of butter…it’s yogurt for me :-)

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6 sunita January 10, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Madhavi, thanks…do give them a try..should come out well, even without the spice in the dough…looking forward to your feedback :-)

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7 sunita January 10, 2008 at 1:22 pm

bird’s eye view, thanks…with practice, you too will be able to dish out lovely parathas…as for the ajwain seeds, no I haven’t tried it, but it does sound like a nice idea…will definitely keep that in mind.

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8 sunita January 10, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Ivy, thanks for leaving your trail…it was a really enlightening comment.As for Anima, she was a kind soul indeed…and isn’t it amazing to find such similarities…

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9 Rachel January 10, 2008 at 1:44 pm

That was a neat read. There are very few people like anima sunita…SHe would be so happy to know that she still exists for you..

The paraths look light and fluffy

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10 KALVA January 10, 2008 at 2:06 pm

yes Sunita, we do eat our aloo parathas with plain fresh homemade yogurt and some slices if either red onions or cucumber… nice post!!!

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11 Deborah January 10, 2008 at 4:24 pm

What a nice post, and the parathas look delicious!

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12 sunita January 10, 2008 at 4:52 pm

rachel, thanks…we did enjoy the parathas indeed :-)

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13 sunita January 10, 2008 at 4:53 pm

kalva, thanks…paratha with yogurt is simply great , isn’t it?

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14 sunita January 10, 2008 at 4:54 pm

deborah, thanks..we did love them a lot :-)

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15 Mome January 10, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Hii Sunita,

Hows yu!!! long time…..but still in our minds :) …well i remember u telling me this cute flashback tale whn we were at ur house…..so how is Dineshda doing??Dipankar sent him a mail but i guess his id might be wrong, so sent it in ur yahoo id too…give my love to Agastya & Rengoni :)

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16 sunita January 10, 2008 at 7:24 pm

Mome!!!! How nice to see you here! Hope you had a nice start to the new year…Dinesh did mention Dipankar’s mail, so I’m sure he has received it. Agastya and Rengoni still point out the house you lived in whenever we pass by…we did have some good times, didn’t we :-D

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17 evolvingtastes January 11, 2008 at 4:52 am

Lovely picture of the parathas, Sunita. Do you have Anima’s original aloo paratha recipe?

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18 Suganya January 11, 2008 at 6:18 am

Where is the achaar? :D

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19 sunita January 11, 2008 at 8:52 am

evolving tastes, thanks…no, it’s not her recipe but the way I like it…I wish I had taken her’s down though.

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20 sunita January 11, 2008 at 8:53 am

Suganya, we prefer them more with dahi, thank you :-D

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21 Aparna January 11, 2008 at 12:50 pm

We love parathas here and aloo, gobhi, mooli and paneer parathas are our favourites. I like them with thinly sliced onions, yogurt and spicy or sweet mango or lime pickles!

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22 Laavanya January 11, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Now if there was another picture through which I could take that piece you are holding out and pop into my mouth!! :)

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23 Katy January 11, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Lovely entry, and I am absolutely inspired to make this recipe. They look incredibly delicious, but so intimidating! Still, I would love to see if I can make them! I’m bookmarking this and will let you know how it turns out!

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24 Farmgirl Susan January 12, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Hello! I just discovered your lovely blog. I’ve never heard of parathas, but now I can’t wait to make some. Yours look absolutely delicious! : )

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25 Katy January 12, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Sunita — I made these for lunch today and absolutely loved them. Thanks so much for sharing this great recipe! I had to use some extra water and oil to get the dough to bind together, but it might have been because my whole wheat flour is a few months old. Also, I found that I had a lot more filling than I had dough — but that was ok, since I loved the filling on its own as well! I couldn’t roll mine anywhere near as flat as yours, but they still tasted delicious. :-)

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26 sunita January 12, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Aparna, all mouthwatering variations :-)

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27 sunita January 12, 2008 at 9:07 pm

laavanya dear, I wish I could hand some over to you, really :-)

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28 sunita January 12, 2008 at 9:25 pm

Katy, thanks…and yaay! I’m glad you gave them a try…it gets better with practice :-)

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29 sunita January 12, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Farmgirl Susan, welcome to my world…do give the parathas a try….I’m sure you’ll love them :-)

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30 Mango Power Girl January 15, 2008 at 2:36 pm

That’s a great post and I love these parathas! I am so tempted to make them right now!!

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31 sunita January 16, 2008 at 11:14 am

mango power girl, welcome to my world…do make them and enjoy :-)

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32 Anonymous January 16, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Hello Sunita,

I love your blog. Every time I peek around the corner you make me smile. What a nice story about Anima.
I love to make the parathas. They look like the aloo kulchas I have eaten in a very good Indian restaurant in Amsterdam (don´t know if there are any differences).
But I don´t know how to work with cups (and I don´t have any), I am used to work with grams. Could you please tell me how much flour and water I need, so that I can give these lovely parathas a try?

Angela

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33 sunita January 18, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Hi Angela, it’s always nice to have you over. As for the conversions, 5C of wholewheat flour=650gms, and 2ans1/2 C of water is roughly 1.25 pints or 590 ml…hope that helps :-)

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34 Anonymous January 18, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Thank you very much!
Angela

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35 sunita January 21, 2008 at 10:53 am

Angela, you’re most welcome, anytime :-)

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